...stuff I do and things I like...

Friday, November 04 2016

Using Google Fi on an iPhone

TL;DR: Google Fi on an iPhone is iMessage plus Google Wifi calling with awesome international coverage.

Google Project Fi is super interesting as it provides an actual low cost alternative to other carriers especially if you travel. The free data-only SIM is also a nice add-on.

Project Fi is exclusively targeting users of Google Nexus Android devices and you actually need one of the supported phones to activate the SIM which can be ordered on the Fi website.

I currently use an iPhone SE (mainly due to the device's tech specs and form-factor - I can't stand phablets!) so I was curious if I can just buy a Google Fi SIM and use it in an iPhone or any other phone actually. Of course I'm not the first person to think about this, but the only decent article on this topic is this one. Sadly most articles that are returned for a search on iPhone Google Fi are just totally useless. Even this article is not good.

I decided to just order Google Fi and a data-only SIM and give it a try. I used a Nexus 5x that I have access to for activating the SIM card. The activation process is really simple. Basically you need to put the SIM card into a compatible phone and install the Google Fi app. Done.

The activated SIM card can be put into any other phone, I tried an iPhone 5c and it just works. You automatically get the APN settings (the mobile data settings) pushed to your phone. Cellular data immediately works! Voice calls work too.

Wifi calling also works, although it (obviously) only works via the Hangout app but it does work. I put my phone into airplane mode and called the number from another phone and yea it rings.

The only service that is a bit unsatisfying is SMS (text messaging). The default option for Google Fi is to send and receive SMS via Google Hangout. Google Hangout exists for iOS and if you login with your Google Account that is associated with your Google Fi service you just install Hangouts and everything just works! If you actually want to use the iOS Messages app you can deactivate SMS via Hangout in the Hangout app on your phone. This will allow you to send and receive SMS via Messages. The only issue here is that incoming SMS messages get some Google specific data attached, as shown below. This is a little annoying but is only on incoming messages (you don't look like an idiot when sending messages to other people). Most of my contacts are on iMessage anyway these days so this is a non issue. Also I'm ok with using Hangouts for SMS since yea iMessage and other messaging apps.

The switch to change between native SMS and Hangout SMS the switch above it does the same for voice calls (to enable Wifi calling).

The broken* incoming SMS, the ~Dgr... is added by Google Fi, this does not show up in Hangouts. Other people have reported that this just went away after short time.

Things that don't work? switching between T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular since this is done via the Google Fi app on Android devices (I actually don't have any idea about this yet).

Preliminary Conclusions
    Altogether Google Fi looks pretty cool and works with an iPhone (besides the hick-up with SMS). iMessage works (it is just an Internet service after all). Wifi calling via Hangouts is nice.

    If you are a hardcore iOS/Mac user Google Fi is too much Google for you. I'm a Linux user with an iPhone so Google Fi makes a lot of sense. Desktop calls and SMS via Hangouts is a nice thing to have in addition to iMessage.

Google Fi on an oooold phone (Android 4.0). Hangouts seem to work fine too.

*The data is a BASE64 encoded blob, no obvious data after looking at a bunch of them of an hour or less.

Tuesday, October 14 2008

QR Codes in Japan

QR Codes are slowly being used here in Germany but on my recent trip to Japan (Tokyo actually) I found QR codes to be used everywhere, from Mc Donald's to beer brewers. I've took a few pictures of QR codes and put them into a small gallery over here. I really think QR codes are a funny piece of technology - so I'll keep collecting pictures of QR codes.

Sunday, June 08 2008

Looking for a new notebook...

I'm looking for a new notebook to replace my IBM Thinkpad T42p. I don't need a new notebook right now but it will need to be replaced this year. My new notebook will be a ultra portable, that weights 1.5Kg or less. The screen should be 12" or 13" inch with a resolution of at least 1200x800. I further need some dual core CPU, 2GBs of memory, and at least 120GB hard disk.

Yesterday I finally had some hands one time with a MacBook Air and an Lenvo Thinkpad X300 both devices haven been on my radar for some time now. Both devices have their problems. The Air doesn't have an ethernet port and too few USB ports. The X300 only comes with an SDD that is way too small and further makes the device very expensive. Btw. I don't care for a CD/DVD drive or PCMCIA/ExpressCard. Both devices really are super thin and light - it really makes a difference to actually hold one in your hand. Now having seen both devices making a decision is even harder.

I'm also considering something like an MSI Wind together with a big LCD monitor for my home office. I'll never buy anything from Sony so I haven't even looked at any of the Vaios.

Tuesday, October 02 2007

Possible soon... the new Nokia Tablet

So Nokia filed a new device with the FCC. The device seems to be the next generation internet tablet in the line of the 770 and the N800. The new device seems to have Wireless Lan (802.11), Bluetooth, buildin GPS, a sliding keyboard and a buildin camera (my guess from the picture below). The device doesn't seem to have WiMAX (at least the FCC tests don't list anything in this direction). Right now WiMAX is not needed on a mobile device anyway.


Thursday, June 28 2007

OpenMoko Developer Phase 1 starts July 9th

Today Sean Moss-Pultz announced the launch date July 9th for the Neo1973/OpenMoko. This will be better then the iPhone!

Thursday, June 14 2007

Archos GEN5

check out the new Archos GEN5 devices which were released today. There are many new cool features like UPnP (which lets you stream Audio and Video) and Flash (to play YouTube and such).

Saturday, May 26 2007

Inspecting the Neo1973

today (at ph-neutral) I got my hands on a Neo1973 (OpenMoko) phone and I must say it is smaller and lighter then I expected. This is really good, I had the fear that it would be kind of big and heavy. Playing with the software was kind of disappointing, it seems really slow. I know the software is not final and probably was build for debugging.

Saturday, January 20 2007

Neo1973 to be released...

From the developer mailing list:
    2007-02-11 Phase 0: Developer Preview
    2007-03-11 Phase 1: Official Developer Launch (for $350)

Read the full post here: Free Your Phone

Now I'm really excited!

Tuesday, November 07 2006


is a new Linux-based mobile phone platform, see the article on linuxdevices. It looks really promising and since Harald Welte has his fingers on it from the beginning it is expected that this will be a truly open device.

Funny thing, the OpenMoKo developer/community site openmoko.org is up but very very beta :-)

Did I mention that I want one of these devices!

Thursday, October 26 2006

Maybe the Nokia 870?

I just found the Nokia 870 or actually a very promising looking device on Engadget. The device looks much like the 770 especially the screen size and the five way button on the top right - so it is not to far fetched to think of the 770 successor. The antenna also makes me believe that this device will be a phone: does this mean this is the first Linux-based Nokia phone (or did I miss anything)? Hopefully yes, I still can't wait to see a decent relatively open Linux-based mobile phone (so far every other Linux phone sucked). Hopefully the device runs maemo since it is by far the best small screen Linux GUI I have see so far. Maybe maybe Nokia brings the real breakthrough for Linux-based phones.

Let's wait and see.

Tuesday, August 15 2006

Trolltech Linux hacking Phone

check this out, it is supposed to be a mobile phone built to be modified/hacked. The hardware specs are pretty standard and are comparable with the PocketPC-based smartphones (WLan, Bluetooth, camera, usb). This looks super fun, hopefully it will be available to normal developers like myself.

This defently goes into the I want one category!

Friday, June 30 2006

Linux phones made to suck!

I just found this editorial titled The Chaos of Incompatibility in Mobile Linux on OS News. The guy really got it right! The mobile phone manufacturers really screwed up their Linux phones.

I really want a Linux-based mobile/smart phone but I haven't found a decent one yet. As the author, I don't care about Java/J2ME. It is slow, incompatible and just sucks. These companies just don't get it, just Linux doesn't do it. They need to publish native SDKs to allow 3rd party applications. Otherwise these Linux phones are not better then any other closed phone platform.

I personally put my hope on the h63xx and BlueAngel Linux ports.

Wednesday, May 24 2006

h63xx Linux the phone works, I've tried it!

As I reported before the actual phone of the h63xx works now (for 3 month as I was told by the guys who got it working). The actual cool part is that there is a complete ready to go filesystem and boot loader (pre configured) for developers and skilled testers available since a couple of days if I remember right. I just untared all the files to my development SD card and booted, it worked right away and I was able to initiate and receive phone calls using gomunicator. I'm really happy that the project went so far.

The complete tar archive and instructions are available here: Mika's website

I think I have to get involved again with h63xx Linux port project, yea!

Monday, May 22 2006

I want a Flybook

Flybook first, I know that the Flybook is not a brand new thing, but it is really cool and first of all really small. The story goes like this: my room mate and I frequently have a discussion about super/ultra portable computers and tablets. As I'm a big fan of PDAs/smart phones and he is a big fan tablets we regularly have a argument about what kind of device is the best/most practical. He basically suggested the Flybook - which I didn't know about until then. This device looks just hardcore right. It is: small PDA-sized, converts to a tablet (with touchscreen); has a keyboard, a hard disk, Bluetooth, WLan/WiFi, GSM/GPRS (I guess DATA only - it is not a phone), USB, Firewire and runs on a x86 compatible CPU. What else would you want? This thing is able to beat any I repeat any other portable device. OK it is a bit pricy and costs up to 2400$. The only other down point besides the price is that it only has 802.11b and Bluetooth 1.1, but this is hopefully going to be fixed in a future version (if there will be any). But anyway if I had the money I would get it.

Friday, March 31 2006

iPAQ h63xx Linux - the mobile phone works!

Every once in a while I check the iPAQ h63xx Linux port page at handhelds.org and today I discovered that the guys got the phone part running on March 23rd. This is really good news! Also other essential stuff is still missing.

I really wished I had more time so I could also work on this project.

Wednesday, March 29 2006

Origami/UMPC Windows Security Button

I saw this posting at Engadget about the Samsung Q1 UMPC/Origami and I couldn't resist looking at the FCC specs including the User's Guide (part 1). While skimming through the pages I found the thing below, the Windows Security Button. The image is taken from the User's Guide part 1 page 9. The button is what we have all been waiting for, Ctrl+Alt+Del all-in-one button, I find this hilarious! I guess they had to put this on the device to make it easier to get the Windows login box to pupop so a user can login. I guess thats the most direct sign of we f**king choose the wrong software for this kind of device and therefore we had to add some extra hardware. Great this made my day!

Monday, March 27 2006

10 years of Palm

The Palm PDA is turning 10 today! Heise (in German) and ZDNet have a nice story about Palm and Palm gives free shipping as anniversary present. I bought my first PalmPilot Professional in December of 1997 and I still love these devices, also I now prefer linux powered PDAs. More about Palm is available here on WikiPedia and here.


Friday, March 03 2006

Origami Predictions

so here are my Origami (origamiproject.com) predictions:

In case it is an Internet tablet, my ideas are listed below. In case it is an iPod thingy: WTF do I know, I don't own/use MP3 players!

    * nice display with higher resolution then the 770 (people talking about 800x600)
    * fast CPU, +400Mhz ARM or x86 compatible
    * WiFi, Bluetooth and Infrared (even if IR is dead MS will still have it)
    * lots of RAM/FLASH but not enough to make the thing usable
    * SD card slot, I don't think they go with RS-MMC
    * USB port or maybe some iPAQ kind of connector
software and such
    Either Windows XP (tablet edition) or CE (PocketPC), where I think XP is more likely to happen because CE really sucks in terms of performance and so. Still the hardware will be awesome (like the iPAQ hardware) but the OS and software will make it unusable. Also, will they try to make it an ebook reader or movie player? Yes! So will they totally cripple it with DRM? Properly. Will they sell tones of them, most likely. Will I buy one? NO!

Anyway the pictures on Engadget look really cool (the hardware, just to be clear!) so lets see. Anyone registered origamilinux.org yet?

Wednesday, March 01 2006

Archos PMA400 vs. Nokia 770

this post is an answer to Varis comment, also note that I haven't been using the PMA400 as long as the 770.

First each device targets a completely different market, while the PMA targets the mobile/portable media player market the 770 is meant to be for mobile/portable Internet usage. These differences are pretty easy to spot: the PMA400 has a build in hard disk and extra hardware to speed up video and audio decoding and comes with recording software, the 770 comes with Bluetooth, a web browser and news reader and offers way better connectivity.

In terms of being the ultimate carry around device I really can't decide, there are just these significant differences which would make me vote for both devices. I terms of size/form factor and battery runtime I would defently prefer the 770 (sorry Matze and Frank!).

Finally I guess both devices are already outdated, since rumors are out that both companies have been working on new devices for some time now. I can't wait to see what they have come up with to impress us even more!?!

Friday, February 10 2006


here is a newer version of GKHDAPS a GKrellM plugin for the Harddisk Active Protection System (hdaps) that comes with newer ThinkPads. It now supports both temperature monitors.

The reason why I update now simply is that hdaps seems to work properly now (Kernel before I had problems with really wired kernel crashes.

Have fun!

Wednesday, December 14 2005

Linux on the Treo650

during my morning news fix I came across Matthew Mastracci's blog where he reports that he got Linux (the Kernel) to boot on his PalmOne Treo650 (a mobile phone). This is very cool again (not that I own one), so we have another Linux mobile phone project. Also he all ready got a handhelds.org page for the Treo650 Linux port.

Now we have four Linux cellphone projects (not counting commercial ones) the h63xx, the HTC BlueAngel, the Motorola A780 and E680 and now the Treo650. Also Panasonic reportedly to only build Linux based UMTS mobilephones in the future.

Maybe also Nokia will ship a Linux based mobile phone after the success of their 770.

I can't wait to have my first truly hack able Linux phone!

Sunday, November 27 2005

h63xx Linux progress ... I got an SMS

the h63xx Linux port is making progress. Today I got a SMS (short message) from Mika which he apparently send from his h6315 using gomunicator. This is awesome!

Also right now I'm busy with other stuff (Nokia770) so I don't really have time to work on it myself. Also now we need to get audio working with ALSA which is a big project I defently don't have time for :-(

Saturday, November 05 2005

Nokia770 - maybe the first successful Linux handheld

ok I admit I caught the 770 flu, which is really easy if you follow the mobile computing/handheld scene and read all the blogs and news sites like Engadget or Gizmodo. Also this morning I searched Technorati on blogs which mention the 770 and of course I found a tone of sites. Many redundant things but still - it seams to role.

So why do I think the 770 could be come the first really successful Linux handheld? First it's done by a real big company, ok Sharp (the Zaurus people) is big too but they didn't had the Nokia experience when it comes to handhelds (Nokia -> mobilephones). Secondly they actively involve the open source community from the beginning (actually even before releasing the device to the public!). Third, the don't do monkey business with the OS, they don't hide it, they allow reflashing of the device with what ever Kernel and OS image you want. Some other companies close their Linux based devices with signed Kernel images etc. Also they didn't go with cheap hardware since a 800x480 display and 802.11g is quite good. Also the real benefit for the users will come from the huge open source software catalogue ;-)

I really can't wait to get my 770 - so I can port my Bluetooth stuff and implement some ideas which require a nice Linux handheld.

Friday, October 21 2005


just was reading Harald's weblog where he writes that there was so much feedback on his A780 hacking and that people are all over it. Some how people seem to want to be able to have a fully controllable mobile phone running software they can change them self. I myself wanted to have this forever so I started working on the Linux port for the HP iPAQ h63xx which by the way makes some progress. The phone is still not usable (which is more of an audio driver issue then a GSM issue) but this should be fixed soon. Also there are other projects (like the HTC BlueAngel Linux port) which all ready support making phone calls. They even have a nice looking phone GUI!

Anyway I think phones running Linux will be one big thing in the future (or at least in the future of hardware hacking, like the Linksys WRT).

Also I started putting to gether a OpenPhone website some weeks ago... but this is work in progress!

Monday, October 03 2005

h63xx Linux - GSM

so today I spent my time getting GSM to work it turned out to be somehow simpler then we thought. The serial line just needs to be set to the right speed then the GSM module nicely responds and one can initiate calls and receive calls - the only bummer is no audio yet :-((

see h63xx Linux Wiki for progress

Saturday, October 01 2005

more h63xx Linux

hciconfig so today I merged Bluetooth to my 2.6.13-omap1 kernel tree and did some testing, works fine. I also played with BNEP (Bluetooth ethernet encapsulation) and it works too, so now we have wireless :) My MMC card still doesn't work even with the latest driver from GIT but I recognized that NFS is much nicer for development anyway.

More to come...

Friday, September 30 2005

h63xx I finally got started with it

so I finally booted Linux on my h6315 and it works. The only disappointment is that I bought the wrong MMC card (MMC v4) which is not yet supported (I somehow got the card recognized but only the partition table can be read - after that it hangs). I still have the NFS option for getting my rootfs mounted but somehow I don't like this. Anyway the guys on #h63xx-port told me today that Bluetooth is working and WiFi is almost working.

Maybe I just have to buy another MMC card :-(

Wednesday, September 07 2005

ipaq h6315 Linux

gpe info screen finally the h6315 (actually only the european version the h6340 is tested) boots Linux (well it did a while ago but now the display and touch screen works). There is a test image with GPE available for people to try it out. Also right now you need a 256mb MMC card for the filesystem since reflashing is not supported yet. Also WiFi, Bluetooth etc. doesn't work yet but this should be a matter of time now the whole thing runs.

URLs are:
boot howto
gpe-image (read howto)

Now I need to get a big MMC card ASAP to do some testing/development of my own, originally I wanted to help with the h63xx-port but lack of time and in depth porting knowledge I didn't do much then pocking around the kernel sources.

Wohooo lets see how fast we get GSM working!

hdaps - Hard Disk Active Protection System

is a feature of the newer ThinkPads, I don't know if this is a T series only feature. This thing is featured in some of the ThinkPad ads on TV - the one where one guy drops the ThinkPad of his co-worker and don't loose any data because of this thing - a silly ad. Anyway this feature is software based and therefore you need a driver - which is available for Linux since mid 2005 (if I read the website correctly). The hdaps hardware is basically just a tilt and motion sensor, where a piece of software needs to monitor the sensor and park the disk if anything strange is detected.

The Linux hdaps driver of course can do much more then motion/tilt detection. It has a build in mouse device so you can abuse the sensor for stuff like playing pinball :-) and there are other fun applications for testing the sensor.

Anyway I started writing a Gkrellm plugin for it which works quite good. But from time to time I get a Kernel ups in the ibm_acpi module (which works find without hdaps), so I decided to not use hdaps for now. But I really like this thing and I look forward to get a ibm_acpi compatible version (if this is the real problem). Any one who ones a ThinkPad should check this out.

Sunday, July 17 2005

Zipit Wireless

Zipit is a other cool Linux device I found today - ok it was brought to my attention by Slashdot. The Zipit is a low end Linux device for instant messaging, chatting etc. Something I can all ready do with my PDAs, but it seems that you can easily modify the firmware aka hack it! LinuxDevices has a nice article about it.

This could be a damn cheep ($99) piece of ARM hardware to play with. Maybe I will get one when I'm back in the US.

Thursday, July 14 2005

The Motorola A780

The Motorola A780 is a Linux based cellphone (something I all ways wanted to have). I just found a nice article on Symlink.ch which has some very interesting details about the device. I especially like the telnet server without root password and the SAMBA server which shares / (root directory).

Will this be the next big thing for Linux hackers?

I guess the phone is as secure as any other embedded Linux device, where everything runs as root.

Thursday, July 07 2005

Archos PMA400

PMA400 I recently got my hands on an Archos PMA400 (Pocket Media Assistant), a Linux based portable media player. The hardware of this device is really cool check it out: 30GB harddisk, WiFi, USB client, USB host and infrared (IrDA). The whole thing is powered by a Ti-OMAP processor and 64MB ram.

In my opinion the device really qualifies to be a true hacker Linux device, the USB host controller especially pushes this point! In general it allows one to connect any kind of USB device to the PMA, which is totally cool (I never saw something like this on any other mobile device). Just for fun I connected a keyboard and it worked immediately (makes life easer when examining the device through a console). Also my Bluetooth adapter got recognized, but the userspace applications are missing (which you can install your self with little hassle).

The device runs a 2.4.19 kernel and Qtopia 1.7 for the UI. Qtopia also provides a whole PIM suite which makes the device much more then a media player.

Archos also released an SDK and the source for the device, but as far as I know the boot loader only loads the original preinstalled and singed kernel image, so running your own kernel takes a little more then just replacing the kernel image.

Quite a few people all ready ported OpenZaurus software packages to the PMA400 (need to change the filesystem layout inside the packages). Just Google.

As soon as I have some valuable output I will post the results.

Thursday, May 19 2005


LifeDrive everybody interested in this stuff all ready knows about palmOne's LifeDrive but I just read the specs today and wow they finally have a full connected device (it has 802.11 and Bluetooth). This thing could really get me back to use PalmOS based devices. The build in hard disk is also very very nice, but $500 is a little much right now. Maybe I can convince myself if the rumors are true and PalmSource switches to Linux, I really think it's true I read some postings on linux related mailing lists from someone@palmsource.com. Lets wait and see :)

Sunday, November 07 2004

Palm Magazine

I'm currently home in Germany and found that I got another copy of the Japanese Palm Magazine again.

OK, so whats up with this Palm Magazine from Japan? The long story is ... several years ago (back when I really was active in the PalmOS developer community) Palm Magazine from Japan wanted to include one of my programs on the CD they ship with the magazine. So I asked for one (1) sample volume as a reference for myself. Since then I'm receiving free copies of Palm Magazine every now and then.

I really enjoy reading (or actually just looking at) Japanese magazines. I also have several Japanese MAC Life magazines and two PalmOS related books from Japan. Very nice ;-)
Palm Magazine

Friday, October 22 2004

iPAQ h6315

As I wrote in The perfect PDAsmartPHONE I bought a iPAQ h6315. This device is really great even it runs Pocket PC. Also the battery is not as bad as many websites report. I do use the wireless (802.11) often but it does not seam to eat the battery too quick. I now really enjoy VoIP with SIP and SJphone.

Also I want to mention the effort to port Linux to the h63xx has started at handhelds.org.